28 Jun How to Boost Productivity With Digital Communication for Hybrid teams
Remote work means no more team huddles in the communal kitchen and no more hallway conversations. Face-to-face team brainstorming sessions rarely occur, and friendly banter with the colleague sitting next to you is gone.
These interactions have been replaced by messaging apps, video calls, and online collaboration tools. But are these apps and tools helping or hindering your team?
Unclear communication wastes time and can be a significant productivity killer. For managers of remote or hybrid teams, a well-functioning team requires clear digital communication.
Digital communication for hybrid teams can throw up some unique challenges. This week we share our top proven strategies to improve digital communication for hybrid teams to help your team perform at their best.
Top Strategies on How to Boost Digital Communication for Hybrid Teams
1. Set clear expectations for team communication
As managers of hybrid teams, setting clear expectations for remote team communication is essential for productivity.
Hybrid teams need clarity and consistency in communication protocols. You should agree on communication protocols for meetings with the whole team.
For example, you might ask all employees to dial into team meetings on their individual devices, even if some employees work in the office – this can help maintain a sense of equality between office workers and remote workers and ensure that everyone can be seen and heard.
Another protocol could be that while someone is speaking, questions should be added to the chat function rather than interrupting the speaker.
For example, you may have agreed on outputs with the project team, but an important stakeholder calls you and changes the goalposts.
As a manager of a hybrid team, you need to have a process to capture and share important information with both office and remote workers so that everyone is on the same page.
Once the team has agreed on communication protocols in the workplace, ensure that they are clearly documented and saved somewhere that everyone can access. That way, team members can easily check if they’re unsure. If new starters join the team, they can quickly get up to speed.
2. Establish rules for different communication channels
As leaders, it’s our job to make sure that team members understand the communication protocols in the workplace. Which communication channels are used for what purposes? How should each channel be used?
For example, use project management apps like Trello as the channel for project-related communications.
Use Microsoft Teams or Slack for quick chats and urgent messages.
And then, use email for more formal conversations that require a record of communication.
You can also set up different Slack channels for things like team #announcements or #updates. It’s imperative to spell out email protocols at work explicitly. Because email management is a key challenge for both remote and office workers, keeping quick and informal conversations off email can save a lot of time.
It’s also helpful to be explicit about communication norms for different channels.
For example, email subject lines should always state the action required and the deadline. If it suits your team, virtual meetings should always have video turned on.
Make sure that agreed protocols for different communication channels are documented clearly and accessible to the whole team.
Effective remote team communication requires consistency, and managers should create regular opportunities to make themselves available to the team.
You may want to implement a short daily team check-in, to pass on updates from senior leaders and allow employees to ask questions or raise concerns. It’s also an opportunity to offer encouragement and support to those who need it.
In addition, managers should also set up regular 1-on-1’s with each team member so that you can maintain open lines of communication with every team member. Ask open-ended questions about how they’re going and how you can best support them to achieve their goals and objectives.
Without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, it can take longer to build trust with team members. Managers who show genuine care for their employees and are available when needed can build trust and psychological safety.
Sometimes you may need to use more than one channel to communicate with your team members.
For example, you may send a request by email but follow up with a call to make sure that the recipient understands your request. It’s always good to test that written instructions have been understood as intended.
4. Invest in technology
Managers of remote teams need to provide the right mix of technology for the team to access the right information and people when they need it. For example, because team members may not be working the same hours, there’s a need for asynchronous communication channels like Microsoft Teams or Slack.
The whole team can access these channels when it suits them and gives everyone a reliable flow of information. Make sure that everyone knows how different technologies work and what the communication protocols are.
You may also want to invest in a comprehensive collaboration tool like Miro, Trello, Notion or Microsoft Planner, where the team can upload tasks, schedules and meetings – this gives everyone full visibility of what tasks others are working on and where tasks are up to. It also allows employees to understand how the team should function.
Project management is even more important for remote teams, and having one location for all project information keeps things organised.
Another useful technology for remote and hybrid teams is visualisation tools. A virtual whiteboard like Freehand allows team members to draw flow charts and mind maps. This can quickly clarify questions.
5. Keep each other accountable
Habits can be hard to change. Find a light-hearted way for team members to keep each other accountable. Humour can help to remind team members in a fun way why digital communication for hybrid teams is important.
For example, one organisation used the hashtag #killduplication whenever people duplicated content unnecessarily across multiple channels. The focus was more on reinforcing good habits rather than calling out individuals. The hashtag helped build a team culture that optimised the use of each channel and cut down on wasted time.
6. Lead by example
As managers, we set the tone for the team by being good role models. So lead by example. Follow the communication protocols agreed by the team. Be consistent and accountable for your own performance. If employees know that you take team communication seriously, they will be more motivated to do the same.
7. Ask for feedback
Communication is two-way. It’s essential to ask for employee feedback on how you can improve team communication.
Review your team’s communication protocols from time to time and make adjustments if needed. Sometimes it can take a bit of trial and error to find what best suits your team dynamics and working styles.
8. Don’t forget to have fun
Digital communication for hybrid teams shouldn’t just be about work. It’s also important to carve out time to share and bond as a team.
Schedule informal virtual meetups, virtual happy hour, or even participate in online games like virtual trivia. Try video shoutouts where you record a thank you message for employees and send them to the whole team.
Another strategy is to set up a channel for non-work communication, such as a #teampets, to have personal conversations and feel more comfortable around each other.
Social time helps to build team cohesion and can be especially important for people who work alone.
As managers of hybrid teams, establishing communication protocols in the workplace is key to setting up for success. With the right technology, communication protocols and clear expectations, your hybrid team can nail digital communication.
At PEPworldwide, we work with teams and managers to increase productivity and performance. We help teams to build productive workplace habits and norms, including digital communication norms.
Implement one or more of the above strategies today and see what difference it can make. Find out more about how we can help you and your team improve communication and increase productivity.